2001: Business - Ping, Callaway branch out; new look for Etonic

The titanium TiSI driver, introduced in 1998, signaled a major change for Ping. The company was famous for its irons, wedges and putters, but never before for its woods. All that changed with the TiSI and its bulky, black clubhead.

Spearheaded by the TiSI driver and the fairway woods that followed, Ping produced record sales in 2000.

Not content to rest on its success, Ping is about to introduce a new TiSI driver called TiSI Tec. Ping chairman John Solheim unveiled the driver Aug. 23 at the company’s national sales meeting in Phoenix. Cast from 6-4 titanium, the driver has a head profile that is virtually identical to the original TiSI (323 cubic centimeters). The sole has a new shape, however, and there are other major differences.

TiSI Tec is designed to produce a boring trajectory with less spin. It is, in the words of Solheim, “very long, very hot.” This has been accomplished, according to Solheim, by reconfiguring internal weighting and moving the center of gravity.

TiSI Tec is intended to make it easier for golfers to hit a draw. In the process of designing the new driver, Ping engineers altered the hosel positions. The unique, interchangeable thermoplastic hosels still are there, but not in the same position. A RUD hosel (right-handed, upright, draw) on the TiSI is not in the same position as a RUD hosel on the TiSI Tec.

The driver sports a new color (slate, which is a dark gray with a blue tinge) and a new manufacturing process (chem-milled technology, which is a sophisticated milling process using chemicals).

Solheim said this process increases the durability of the driver and allows the heads to be manufactured with greater precision.

With the TiSI Tec, Ping becomes the first company to mark its drivers with dynamic loft rather than static loft. In other words, the 8.5-degree TiSI Tec driver will have about 10 degrees of loft in a static measurement. At impact, though, Ping is saying it is 8.5 degrees. The five dynamic lofts for the driver are 5.5, 7, 8.5, 10 and 11.5 degrees. Five shaft flexes are available in Ping’s 350 series shaft, manufactured to Ping specifications by Aldila and HST.

Solheim said the driver easily meets the U.S. Golf Association standard for coefficient of restitution (so-called trampoline effect). The new driver will be shipped to dealers in November. Suggested retail price is $550, up $50 from the TiSI.

In other product news:

• Etonic Golf Division of Spalding Sports will have a whole new look next year, starting with a revised logo that is now blue and features an upturned oval, and continuing with totally revamped lines of shoes and gloves.

The biggest changes are in shoes, an area in which the company has struggled in recent years because it sold just a smattering of models and offered very little product under $100, which is where 75 percent of the footwear market is found.

“The brand was a little stale, and the shoe didn’t integrate as a line,” said Ted Almy, category director for Etonic. “What we have now is a complete line with brands that cover the entire market.”

In essence, Etonic has divided its golf shoe offerings into three basic lines. The Lites 100 (suggested retail price of $55) and the Dri-Lite 200 ($75) fall into what the company calls the recreational category. Next is the frequent category, with the new Dri-Lite 300 ($99); Dri-Lite 400 ($125); and the Comfort ($99). For the “serious” golfer, Etonic has the Dri-Lite AC 500, which costs $150 and features eVent Fabric designed to let the shoe breathe while keeping the foot cool, and the Ultimate, which has a $250 price tag. In addition, the company is coming out with a lightweight ladies model called Expression ($75).

“Of the 31 styles we now have in the Etonic line, 21 are new,” said Almy.

Etonic’s new glove line features three distinct products. Gone is the Difference, which helped the brand grow from 13th in the market to third over the past several years. In its place is the new AC (for air cooling) series, beginning with the AC Tour ($16), which has an Ethiopian Cabretta leather palm and a Dupont CoolMax insert. Also available is the AC Grip ($14), which features exclusive “Ever Grip” technology designed to maintain a good grip and feel in wet, dry, hot or humid conditions, company officials said. Another offering is the AC Feel ($10), a synthetic glove with Cabretta leather patches in the thumb and palm area.

The shoe and glove lines will not be available until Jan. 15.

• Callaway Golf Co. Aug. 24 introduced the Hawk Eye VFT Tungsten Injected Titanium Irons. The clubs combine variable face thickness (VFT) technology and the company’s tungsten injection technology.

The irons feature a low center of gravity accomplished by the use of an internal weight pocket, consisting of tungsten weights that are spread across the sole of each club. These weights, extending from the heel to the toe, also are intended to enhance the iron’s stability.

The offset irons have a large undercut cavity in the back, allowing a maximum amount of weight to be concentrated in the sole to achieve a higher trajectory. Callaway also has designed new graphite shafts for the Hawk Eye VFT irons. The System 75 Ascending Mass graphite shafts are lightest in the long irons and increase in weight through the wedges. This allows golfers to generate more clubhead speed in the long irons while providing better feel and clubhead control in the short irons and wedges, said officials. A set of eight irons with graphite shafts carries a suggested retail price of $1,640 ($1,400 with steel shafts).

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